Simple Meal Planning Tips – How To Take the Stress Out of Dinnertime

meal planning frustration

(Updated May 5, 2023)

Take the stress out of dinnertime by having a PLAN. Meal planning will not only save your sanity but it will also:

  • Save You Money
  • Improve Nutrition
  • Save You Time
  • Reduce Stress
  • Make Dinnertime Enjoyable For The Whole Family


You know the story, it’s around 5:00 p.m., and a sense of panic, even anxiety wells up inside of you as dinnertime approaches because you realize you have no idea what you are going to fix for dinner.

You look in the refrigerator, the freezer, the pantry, and then you look in the refrigerator AGAIN, (just in case you missed something the first time).

“What do I fix for dinner?” Nothing is coming to you.


Even worse, is when you have to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work. You are tired, hungry and just want to get home. You end up aimlessly wandering the isles of the store in a paralyzed state of overwhelm hoping something will pop out at you.

Not a great state of mind to be in for nutritious meal planning!

This is usually when you grab the highly processed, sugar, and fat-laden foods because it is something quick and easy. Can anyone relate?

Can your mood affect the energy of your food?

It is my belief that thoughts and emotions have energy, and energy affects everything around us.

If you are in a stressed state while preparing food, could that affect the food you are preparing? I believe it can.

Even if you are just chopping up veggies, or making a simple grilled cheese sandwich, choose to do it with love.
It is much easier to do it out of LOVE if you are not stressed.

Menu planning doesn’t have to be complicated.

It does require a LITTLE of your time, but the benefits are SO worth it. When I have a menu set up, my whole life runs better.

meal planning calendar

Here are some meal planning tips that work for me

1-Get some kind of meal planning form

This clipboard calendar is one of my favorite ways to plan my menus.

It is SIMPLE, attractive in my kitchen, and works great to clip to my fridge or bulletin board so the whole family can see.

The magnetic clip shown in the photo above is one of my favorites.

I use them all over the house to hang things. They work really well for my menu calendar.

There are several ways to make a menu plan out there. It can be as simple as a calendar, phone app, or an online program.

If you prefer something simple like a clipboard calendar, or one-page forms (like I do), these printable forms are great.

You can print them as needed.

meal planning calendarI like to display the menu in the kitchen where everyone can see it. This way you can easily delegate food preparation to someone else if needed.

2-Decide how detailed you want to get with your meal planning

No matter how detailed you get with your planning, I recommend being somewhat flexible! Life can get a little crazy and you want to be able to switch things around a little if necessary.

For example: Let’s say you have a meal planned that will take an hour to prepare and ***** hits the fan and there is NO WAY you have time or energy to cook.

Just switch to an easy meal you have groceries for and make that meal another day, NO BIG DEAL! I do it all the time.

The idea is to plan and buy groceries for the week/2 week and you can switch things around as needed.

I offer 3 different printable menu planning forms in my shop.

  •  Weekly menu
  •  2-week menu
  • detailed daily menu planner


meal planning


If you are following a strict diet or want to plan all three meals and even snacks, this weekly meal planning form works great.


This 2-week menu planner includes a shopping list that comes in handy when it comes time to go shopping.

As you assign meals you can easily jot down the ingredients you need to buy.

3-Gather your meal planning recipe resources

Get out your recipe books, and magazine recipe clippings, and check your Pinterest boards for some great ideas.

It is funny how you can get in a rut and eat the same things over and over and forget about certain foods.

Don’t be afraid to try some new things. Maybe incorporate a new recipe each week.

Some people have certain nights of the week for certain types of foods.


Whatever works for you and your family. Just find something that works and go with it.

Whenever I see a recipe in a magazine that I want to try, I rip it out of the magazine and put it on a magnetic clip in my kitchen where I can see it.

If it’s a keeper recipe, then I save it, if not, it goes in the trash.

When I schedule a meal, I like to list the reference of where the recipe is located: Pinterest board, Book name, page, or clipped magazine, etc. 

4-Assign meals to fit your schedule

Don’t plan on fixing a big, labor-intensive meal on the nights you have a lot going on.

You can even delegate and have someone else prepare the meal and even the meal planning.

My husband and daughter are more than willing to prepare dinner if I have already decided what to fix.

5-Create a meal planning shopping list

Once you have a week or two weeks planned out, go through your menu and write down the items you will need to buy at the store.

This will save you so much time and money because you are not making repeated trips to the store.

Repeated trips to the store, mean extra gas money and unnecessary items that you may be tempted to buy that you don’t really need.

One of my dear friends showed me this technique she uses to keep her shopping list organized.

IT’S A SIMPLE, GAME-CHANGING and a little QUIRKY THING, that works like a charm.


  1. Fold a piece of paper in quarters.
  2. Write down the places you shop frequently.
  3. As you plan your meals and when you think of items you need, you simply put them on the store list and you’re set. 

6-Clip coupons 

Keep coupons that are needed for the trip to the grocery store all in the same place.

Now, this step is optional for the coupon queens out there. I used to be, but not so much anymore. I do a lot of my shopping at Costco where they don’t take coupons.

If you do use coupons, cut them out and place them in an envelope ready to go.

My menu planner set includes a printable that you can print out on envelopes that have a place for the items needed and a place to hold your coupons. 

7-Keep your grocery list accessible

I like to keep my grocery list either on my fridge or on my magnetic chalkboard

Another thing I find very helpful is to keep a pencil on my fridge. 

Simply glue a tiny magnet dot towards the top of the pencil so you have access to something to write with when you think of an item that needs to go on the list.

meal planning frustration

8-Be flexible

If something comes up, or for some reason, the meal you have scheduled just doesn’t sound good that night, fix something else on your menu.

Find a time during the week that works for you to sit down and plan your menu.

I find Sunday evenings are a good time for me to sit down, look at my week ahead of a do a little menu planning.

Now that it is just my husband and me, we sit down together and plan out the menu.

That way he has some say in what we’re eating and what he will be preparing.

(Yes, my husband has agreed to help prepare some of the meals).

I should have incorporated that a long time ago.

There are no “MEAL PLANNING” police. If you go off the wagon for a time, just jump back in. 

You’ll notice when things start to get hectic again. 

The benefits of meal planning

Oh, you are going to love the peace and assurance when 5:00 p.m. rolls around and you already know what you are fixing for dinner! Yahoo!

I will admit, I have fallen off the wagon a little and need to get back in the groove.

Tomorrow, it’s meal planning time! I am ready for some structure in my life again and I hope you are too.

Here are a few recipe ideas that you can add to your weekly menu. 

Remember, it’s good to switch things up a bit and try something new. 

Here are a few gals I follow that have some yummy recipes.



Instant Pot Lasagna

Quinoa & Bean Salad | Lime Cilantro Dressing

Quick and Simple Spanish Rice 







Jan Howell

Jan Howell

Whether it’s a new recipe, a fun craft, or some handy tips for your garden and home, I hope to empower and inspire you with skills that you can use to create joy, improved health, and to do it in a simple way.

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